Particulate matter (PM) air pollution contributes to about 7 premature deaths every year, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
This astounding figure equals 1 in 8 deaths around the world.
Air pollution is now deemed the world’s top environmental health risk. Therefore, a decrease in particulate matter air pollution could save millions of lives.
PM air pollution and its effects on public health is an area of great interest and scientific investigation.
A United States-wide study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, is the first to find connections between exposure to particulates and negative health impacts on women with diabetes.
Health risks linked to particulate matter
Among other negative health risks, particle pollution has been connected to premature death in people with lung or heart disease, arrhythmia, nonfatal heart attacks, exacerbated asthma and decreased lung function.
Particulate matter is also believed to contribute to cardiovascular disease by an activation of coagulation, increase in inflammation and direct entry into systemic circulation.
The new study used data from the Nurses’ Health Study, comprising of 114,537 women. Data was gathered between 1989 and 2006.
The subjects were mostly white women of upper- and middle-socioeconomic status across the US.
From each subject’s home address, the research team utilized a model to predict what kind of air pollution they were probably exposed to.
Then the team compared incidences of cardiovascular disease, strokes and coronary heart disease across the participants. They calculated the effect of particulate matter on three different size groups:
- PM 2.5: fine particulate pollutants, smaller than 2.5 thousands of a millimeter, that is, smaller than dust
- PM 2.5 – 10: particulate pollutants from 2.5-10 thousands of a millimeter, for example road dust or windblown, and dust from grinding and crushing
- PM 10: comprises all sizes of particles from both groups of PM 2.5 and PM 2.5-10
Risks for women with diabetes
In accordance with the data, all levels of particulate matter gave a small increased risk of cardiovascular disease; women aged over 70 years, who are obese or who reside in the south or northeast of America were especially at risk.
The research team also discovered that this risk of stroke or cardiovascular disease was especially high in women with diabetes. The risk elevated with every 10mg/m³ of air:
- PM 2.5: 44% for cardiovascular disease/ 66% for stroke
- PM 2.5-10: 17% for cardiovascular disease/ 18% for stroke
- PM 10: 19% for cardiovascular disease/ 23% for stroke
The research team’s analysis accounted for smoking status and family history, neither of which affected the results. Those who had been subjected to smaller particulate matter still had notably increased risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease.
Because diabetes and air pollution are such hot topics, this will definitely be the first of several investigations into the connections between the two. The main goal of the study was to highlight those groups that might be at risk, and to raise awareness of the effect of particulate matter air pollution.